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What is Mokele Mbembe?

G. Melanson
G. Melanson

Similar in appearance to a sauropod dinosaur and approximately the size of a large hippopotamus, Mokele Mbembe is a cryptic that is said to inhabit the basin of Africa’s Congo River. Its name comes from the area’s natives, and means "one who stops the flow of rivers" in the Lingala language. The creature is reported to be an herbivore, and dwell in deep water at the river bends of the Congo.

Like other alleged lake monsters such as Ogopogo and the Loch Ness Monster, Mokele Mbembe’s physical description varies according to witnesses. Some reports claim it resembles the extinct Sauropoda, with a long neck and small head, while others say it resembles a modern-day animal such as an elephant or rhinoceros. Meanwhile, noted biologist and Cryptozoology researcher, Dr. R. P. Mackal, theorizes that Mokele Mbembe is a reptile, resembling an iguana more so than any mammal or amphibian. Natives of the Boha village, however, believe that Mokele Mbembe is a spirit rather than a physical being.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Additional descriptions of the creature include such details as a frill at the back of its head, resembling that found on a male chicken, as well as a single horn protruding from its forehead. The color of Mokele Mbembe’s skin is generally agreed to be reddish-brown.

One of the earliest documented reports of Mokele Mbembe comes from a 1776 book written by French missionary, Abbé Lievain Bonaventure, who reported seeing gigantic footprints in the Congo river area with circumferences of roughly three feet (1m) and spaced seven feet (2m) apart. Various expeditions have been launched to track down Mokele Mbembe, beginning in the 1880s after Belgium took over the Congo. However, none have yielded concrete evidence to support the creature’s existence.

Mokele Mbembe is said to spend its day climbing river banks to forage for plants and fruits. Although all reports seem to concur that it is a herbivore, Mokele Mbembe has been known to become violent with humans and particularly hippopotamuses that stand in its way.

Skeptics of Mokele Mbembe point out that there is insufficient scientific data to prove the existence of the legendary creature. However, The Likouala Swamp in the People's Republic of the Congo, which is the hotbed of many Mokele Mbembe sightings, remains 80% unexplored and covers a terrain larger than the state of Florida, at roughly 55,000 square miles. While the Congo may not have yielded evidence of a living dinosaur as of yet, expeditions to the area have uncovered other new animals, such as a new sub-species of crestless mangabey monkey discovered during a 1986 expedition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Mokele Mbembe?

Mokele Mbembe, which means "one who stops the flow of rivers" in the Lingala language, is a cryptid reputed to live in the Congo River Basin. Described as a creature with a long neck and tail, it resembles a sauropod dinosaur, leading to speculation about its existence and numerous expeditions to find it, though without scientific evidence to date.

Has Mokele Mbembe been scientifically proven to exist?

No, Mokele Mbembe has not been scientifically proven to exist. Despite numerous expeditions and anecdotal reports from locals, there is no credible physical evidence such as bones, tracks, or definitive photographic documentation. The scientific community generally considers it a combination of myth and misidentified known wildlife.

Where is Mokele Mbembe said to live?

Mokele Mbembe is said to inhabit the remote swamps and rivers of the Congo River Basin in Central Africa. This region's dense forests and limited access have contributed to the persistence of the legend, as the challenging environment complicates thorough exploration and research.

Why do some people believe Mokele Mbembe might be a living dinosaur?

Some people believe Mokele Mbembe might be a living dinosaur due to descriptions that closely match those of sauropods, a group of long-necked dinosaurs. This belief is fueled by local folklore and the fact that the Congo Basin's vast and unexplored habitat could potentially hide unknown species. However, this hypothesis lacks scientific support.

What efforts have been made to find Mokele Mbembe?

Since the early 20th century, numerous expeditions have ventured into the Congo in search of Mokele Mbembe. These have included both scientific and cryptozoological missions, often funded by enthusiasts and television documentaries. Despite these efforts, conclusive evidence of the creature's existence remains elusive.

Could Mokele Mbembe be a case of mistaken identity?

It is highly plausible that Mokele Mbembe sightings are cases of mistaken identity. The region is home to various wildlife, such as the African forest elephant, rhinoceros, or large monitor lizards, which could be misinterpreted as a more exotic creature, especially when observed from a distance or in poor lighting conditions.

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